When Will Apple Grow Up?

Opinion: Tiger is great, or it will be soon. But if Apple wants to be considered a player in the enterprise, then it needs to improve its beta trial system to avoid the surprises now visiting networked Macs.

Apple has a great operating system in its new Mac OS X 10.4, aka "Tiger." And the company offers a great hardware platform, too. But from its actions heading into Tigers release, and now reading the troublesome list of missing-in-action applications and compatibility issues, I have to question the companys aspirations to be a player in the enterprise.

Heres a checklist of recent snafus on the Tiger productivity front:

  • Apples introduction of new low-level code in Tiger and a bug cause even more networking problems for enterprise managers.
  • Some sites report troubles with SMB connectivity, as well as the usual batch of incompatible utility apps.

That Tiger is having issues with Windows networking is hardly a surprise. But all of these little problematic pieces add up to a big headache for enterprise folks who want to keep using their Macs in hostile territory.

For some analysts and Apple apologists, this view is overblown. For them, all rollouts have problems, and these are par for the course.

Instead, I see it as proof that Apple isnt an enterprise player and isnt terribly interested in becoming one, despite always having a toe in the enterprise market.

And a pretty big toe at that, at least in terms of product design and quality. Apple makes very nice enterprise servers, a SAN (storage area network), and a Unix-based OS with excellent ease-of-use and manageability.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Tiger Server.

Apple simply isnt ready to do what it would take to become a "real" enterprise vendor.

For example, a real enterprise vendor wouldnt rely quite so much on secrecy and the element of surprise to create excitement for its products. A real enterprise company also would have a product roadmap and an extensive, open beta process for its operating-system products, which could prevent missteps such as Tigers issues with Microsoft servers.

The way I see it, Apple can be a company with big secrets or it can be an enterprise company, but it cant be both.

Revenue-wise, it makes sense for Apple to be a consumer company, and the secrets seem to help excite those customers. But everything Ive found in Tiger so far was described on Apples Web site months in advance. Why the company couldnt have done a wider beta program is something only CEO Steve Jobs knows.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTiger includes support for Kerberos-based VPNs and a stealth mode for its firewall. Click here to read more about some of the new security-focused features in Mac OS X.

To be fair, Ive just finished a book for Mac mini users, and in my testing I didnt encounter the problems with the SMB protocol that others have complained about. I have a Microsoft Small Business Server and found Tiger to be much easier to use in that environment than its Panther predecessor.

Support for Microsoft Exchange is still not what youd hope, and whatever connectivity existed between Exchange and Apples Address Book app seems to have disappeared. VPN support is there, but it may be hit-or-miss depending on the networks configuration.

But because of its small market share and low enterprise presence, Apple can release software that really needed better, and more public, testing almost with impunity. This is further proof that Apple isnt willing to do whats necessary to become an enterprise player—and customers reward that behavior by staying away, in droves.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.